One of the bigger stories the past few days in the Korean blogosphere has been the "blog juice" post on London Korean Links. That post researched the stats for 20 of the top Korea blogs *cough*, but started an interesting series of comments regarding the blogging scene over here. Lame stuff to all but, like, eight people, but whatever. I originally posted the gist of these comments on the LKL entry, but it doesn't look like the moderator approved, so I'll just share them here.
Both James and King Baeksu mentioned how they felt The Marmot's Hole had slipped over the years. I'm in no position to judge him or his blog, which trumps me and mine in pretty much every way imaginable, but I will write that it is no longer the place for information anymore. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, because it shows some very healthy diversification in the blogosphere. But to backtrack a little, I do think The Marmot's Hole has shown improvement over the past few months. I recall the infrequent updates over there and the absolutely horrid guest bloggers that made me almost (almost) stop visiting altogether. The drop-off between Robert's posts and "The Marmot's Hole, Weekend Edition" was remarkable. James is right, though, in his point about that blog being behind the curve with news nowadays . . . nobody has time to sift through all the news sites and put together tons of updates a day, but to miss out on big news stories is something inexcusable if you've got, like, five gueest bloggers, which The Marmot's Hole does. The problem is there is little overlap, or at least there wasn't until guest blogger Sonagi started picking up the slack, which meant that when Mr. Koehler didn't write the news, nobody wrote the news.
And as James says, there seems to be a lack of quality control, something I mentioned way back in regard to the guest bloggers, and which we also find with the bickering in the comments section. An example of the former presented itself just now when a generally sensible and informative poster put up this post on the giant wave in Boryeong that killed nine people today:
This is being reported on CNN… Can’t find details, not even an exact location…
anybody know anything? Hand of the Lord or another anti-Korean plot…?
Anyway, RIP for the victims, tentatively said to be fishermen and their children
Not only did the guy do no basic research at all---which would have revealed scores of news articles and would have at least provided the framework for an informative post on what will be a huge news story---but he goes and makes a crass, insensitive line like "Hand of the Lord or another anti-Korean plot…?" After nine people died on fucking Children's Day weekend. Half-assed work like that doesn't belong on the premier Korea blog, and I wouldn't even accept something like that from a middle school kid who typed it on his Blackberry on the way to school.
Anyway, it still gets me ticked off when I recall that the Marmot’s Hole (and all the other big blogs) completely ignored the Bill Kapoun story for two or three days . . . the Marmot was busy or out of town, as I recall it, but none of his guest writers wrote anything about it, all while his page filled up with fluff and garbage stories, and while his lawyer friend let his little fued spill out onto three different blogs. Really put all the “foreign community” talk into perspective when everyone was too busy fighting among themselves to spread the word about one of their own. Well, looks like Bill's family eventually received enough money through donations to cover expenses, so I guess that’s . . . as fortunate as can be in that situation, but that blog had 30 times my readership at the time, and a lot more good could have been done, yet in spite of my email and my mentions on the open theads, nobody over there picked up the story. Really reinforced, too, that lowly English teachers, who nobody gives a damn about anyway, are unfortunately put on the frontlines of battles here because bigger names—with requisitve influence and Korean-language skill—don’t do any heavy lifting. But, hey, who gets tired of reading about banking discrimination? Makes good copy, right?
Something I’ve been pleased to see over the past few months, though, is the increased visibility of newer, very entertaining and informative Korea-related blogs. They still don’t have the readership, though, of the big ones but that could change. Still kills me, though, that the “big boys” are considered Big Hominid, (probably the most annoying and annoyingly-designed blog out there), The Party Pooper (who does a couple entries a month), Oranckay (who hasn’t updated in two years), Ruminations in Korea (doesn’t update), Iceberg (rarely updates), Occidentalism (let the inmates run the asylum), Budaechigae (rarely updates), and Cathartidae (who doesn’t even have a blog anymore). It always used to bug me to see link lists that refer to the same eight or ten people, but now I'm honestly glad to have some fresh faces and to read folks that aren't participating in some grand circle-jerk. Roboseyo, Amanda Takes Off, A Year in Mokpo, and The Joshing Gnome (among others) are some examples of newer, quality blogs that few people ever hear about, and that evidentally don't turn up on many blogrolls.
Something also pleasing is the trend away from just combing the newspapers and being smarmy. I think the Marmot, Korea Beat, and Mongdori do good work in putting Korean-language stuff into English. But what is also important is pulling issues together, something Gusts of Popular Feeling, The Grand Narrative, and Gord Sellar (among others) do quite well.
So, that's basically what I wrote on LKL, save for a few minor changes. I'm sure I'll invite a lot of criticism by going after some of the hallowed old guard. Mark, from Korea Pop Wars, a blog ranked number 19 on LKL's list (but who would actually be ranked behind me were I included on the list, ㅋㅋㅋ) wrote:
[I]n reading Philip's column and looking at the Juice List made me realize who little good information is available about Korea through blogs (in English, anyhow). I think things were much better two years ago than today.
And he concludes by reiterating, after mentioning a few of today's bloggers:
But I feel confident returning to my original point -- if you want to understand Korean news, current affairs and the country in general, I think things are not as good today as they were a couple of years ago (at least from a blogging perspective). Maybe more sources are around now, but none of them compare to the top three of the past.
He bases his point mainly on the contention that scholars like Oranckay and Hanjungui Karuchim are no longer active. He seems like a nice guy, so we'll just agree to disagree, although I still maintain that the scene is much more healthier
And I also believe people, whether as readers or writers, are less interested in the pursuit of objective information (whatever that may mean), but are rather interested in impressions. If I may plagiarize myself a bit, here is me complaining about the disinterest in collaborative efforts like Galbijim and Waygook.org among the foreign community down here, though I do make the case that it's the same deal with blogs and bloggers. The "they" refers to foreigners in the quote-unquote foreign community:
While they share knowledge they, don't, however, pool it. Ownership of ideas is very important, which explains the popularity of blogging, and which is why people refer to the Galbijim Suncheon page not as the Suncheon page but rather Brian's Suncheon page. And, as I see it, foreigners don’t value facts as much as they value impressions. That is, a Galbijim article might lay out population figures, might list restaurants and bars, might give directions to parks and movie theaters. But foreigners aren’t interested in what or where things are, but rather how things are, and opinions are invariably bound to their owners. While I have been bemoaning the lack of interest in Galbijim or Waygook.org (message board for Jeollanam-do teachers), I haven’t been paying enough attention to blogger or facebook, where hundreds of foreigners in South Jeolla are participating). The problem for Galbijim, then, is that its content is written by only a handful of faithful contributors, and the Jeolla content is generally written entirely by me. The nature of an encyclopedia means that I can give you all the facts you’ll need, but I can’t (explicitly) give you my impression. When an encyclopedia entry is written by a single person, there’s no reason to hold it in higher regard than a blog entry, and when an encyclopedia entry is written by a single person, there’s no reason to think it any different than a blog entry.
That is, any quote-unquote information I give you, whether on this site or through Galbijim or a message board, will never be taken purely as fact anyway, so what's the point of pretending otherwise? Anyway, I don't have letters after my name so what makes me think I can pretend to any authority in the first place? I think if I did have any influence around here we would have seen a reduction in the number of "What's Suncheon like?" and "Any foreigner bars in Gwangju?" posts on Dave's ESL Cafe, but *sigh* we all know how little good "facts" can do.
Well, it's getting late. In any event, keep up the good work, those of you doing it, and please please please continue to keep your sites free of animated .gifs!